A community center in Brooklyn offers language classes, afterschool activities, and more to thousands of people each year.
But when cold weather sets in, the United Chinese Association of Brooklyn may not be able to offer something more basic: heat and hot water. And if that happens, it will close.
"If we close this place down, then, of course, the senior citizens, they're not happy. They cannot come here to learn from us, from the classes that we provide, and they cannot play, they cannot hang out, they cannot have lunch in here," said Ansen Tang, the center's manager. "So it affects a lot of people."
The center is one of 2,600 applicants for natural gas service in Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island that have been thrown in limbo since National Grid imposed a freeze on new hookups.
The utility blames the Andrew Cuomo administration for rejecting a proposed pipeline beneath New York harbor that would bring natural gas from fields in Pennsylvania to the region. Environmentalists bitterly oppose the pipeline.
Local lawmakers are angry, too, but they blame the utility. They say National Grid is manufacturing a crisis to put pressure on the Cuomo administration to approve another application for the pipeline. They say the utility could easily buy gas from other suppliers.
"National Grid does not have a gas supply problem; they have a greed problem. They have a credibility problem," Brooklyn Councilman Mark Treyger said at a news conference.
But National Grid says buying natural gas from another supplier is a short-term fix that does not assure new customers they would have an uninterrupted supply.
The utility is telling potential customers, like Julie Levin, a mother of three waiting to move into a new home in Park Slope, to call their state lawmakers to support the pipeline — a hostage situation to its critics.
"I didn't know what it was until I researched it, and I actually, loving our environment, am against this pipeline, but I do need gas," Park Slope resident Julie Levin said at the news conference. "We have nowhere to go. Our lease is up in a month. We have no more money left. We need to move into our house."
In a statement, National Grid said it is equally as frustrated that it cannot provide new service safely without the pipeline. The utility said the existing infrastructure that brings gas to the region is at capacity.
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